When I was in grade 11, I had to do a presentation in front of my English class. It wasn’t just a speech. It was to be a speech AND a demonstration of some kind; about 5 minutes long. Our teacher’s example of what he was expecting, was to take us out to the staff parking lot, and show us how to change a flat tire.
We would have talked about my upcoming project during one of our family’s typical marathon supper conversations and somehow it was decided that I would build a cedar planter for my presentation. Jim and my dad had started building these planters the year before, so we had many samples and all the equipment.
Dad and I spent a couple evenings in his shop, with him showing me how to use the compressor, the pinner, the stapler, and the blow torch. We worked through the process of building a planter, and decided that I should take a number of partially finished planters with me and explain the process as I completed one of them.
And then? He made me speak my presentation to him. I told him, I was good. I had it in my head. But he was insistent. He wanted to hear me say the words. He praised and critiqued and listened and suggested and made me build about half a dozen planters all while getting used to hearing my voice say the words. Only when he was satisfied that I had it down pat, did he start packing up his van with all the equipment I needed.
The next morning he drove me to school, and unloaded the compressor and all it’s attachments, along with the blow torch and partially finished planters into my classrom. I did the thing and got an A.
And what I learned from that whole experience?
1. Blow torches have a huge WOW factor. When all else fails, dazzle your audience with fire.
2. My dad was on my side. He wanted me to win. I could trust him. He had my back.
This is for you.
(Put blow torch on podium.)
And yes I’ve practiced this speech about 20 times.
In 2003, my dad asked me to write his story. His cousin was preparing a book, and had asked all family members for short biographies. Most folks have a page in The Blue Book. My dad? Has 13 pages. This was partially because he’d lived an interesting life plus mosty, I don’t know how to write short sentences.
In addition to the stories, he wanted me to mention that he was a praying man. “You can say that even tho I don’t pray out loud, I pray all the time. I say, “Lord, I’m a simple man. No education. I need help with this…” He also wanted me to put down that he loved his mom. And that they has thing ‘thing’ about him helping her out with something ‘sometime before Christmas’…
So I wrote it all down, and recorded the stories. About him and the police at the Abbotsford Air Show, him and border crossing guard. Him and the hazmat team in my brand new neighbourhood.
But the three things that he kept going back to, that he wanted me to definitely record, were:
1. He loved his family.
2. He worked hard.
3. He was a praying man.
My dad was a Christian with his own spin on what it meant to be a man of faith. He did not preach. He couldn’t read the Bible, rarely prayed out loud. He didn’t teach Sunday School or go on Mission Trips. His involvement in worship singing was to hold the hymnal and his idea of being the spiritual leader in our home meant waking us up Sunday morning to go to church. He bellowed to us in the same way he called his cows… and it was mostly annoying.
My dad loved.
He loved like Jesus does. Unselfishly. Completely. Joyfully.
With that in mind, I’ve written out The Gospel, according to Pete Klassen:
· Klassen 1: 7 - Love the wife of your youth. Choose her when you’re young. And she’s young. Jail bait young. Marry her as soon as it’s legally acceptable. Then love the heck out of her. Enjoy her company. Share your business with her. Touch her. Thank her. Trust her. Hang in there when things turn to crap. Honor and respect that marriage vow. Choose, every day, to love her well. Grow up and grow old with her. Let the last words you breathe, be words of affirmation. “You’re a good woman,” were his final words. And they were perfect.
· Klassen 2: 18 - Enjoy your family all the days of your life. Be present. Have fun with them. Be the one that brings the laughter to your home. Take fluorescent spray paint cans along on holidays and graffiti up the natural beauty on the Hope Princeton. Be the dad that brings lake toys for all the kids when you go camping. Buy a trampoline, no buy TWO trampolines for the back yard. Build a 10,000 pound dock. Blow up things. Announce it’s a NO HOMEWORK night and take everyone to a sketch downtown theatre that is showing a James Dean marathon. Build barns, tree forts, and cabins and potato guns. Make big fires and campfires.
· Klassen 3: 4 - Be generous. With your time. Drive that daughter to school every morning at 7:30 for 4 years without complaining. Then 20 years later, drive that grandson to school. Spend hours in the shop cutting out tulips for your wife then years later, cutting out guns for your grandsons.
· Klassen 3: 10 – Be generous with your love. Greet people with enthusiasm and a hug. Look for the lonely one, the young one, the insecure one. Love on them. Include everyone. Always.
· Klassen 4: 15 - Be generous with your money. Tithe faithfully. And make sure your kids are looked after. Ensure they have reliable vehicles.
· Klassen 5: 2 – Teach your children (and your grandchildren) and their friends, well. Show them how to use a hammer. How to drive. How to do fractions by cutting up apples. How to throw a bale of hay. How to work.
· Klassen 5:13- Put some crown moulding on it. Then add a bit more.
· Klassen 5:19 - Be cheerful. If he had a bad day in traffic, or a crappy day on the job? We never heard about it. He only told stories to entertain, not to complain. He walked into the house, excited and happy to see us. EVERY SINGLE DAY.
· Klassen 6: 22 - Figure out your relationship with God. Trust your pastor. (He trusted two.) Be vulnerable with someone about your faith. Attend church faithfully and make sure you family gets there on time. Preach a sermon with your life, not your lips.
· Klassen 7: 9 - Be thankful. Never take for granted the good life you have. My dad. Who lived his life big and wild, spent the last three years confined to a twin bed with an awful lumpy mattress. He was spoon fed thickened mush, and relied on care aids to get him into a wheel chair and onto a toilet. During one of my last visits with him, while we were sitting in the dark, watching The Shawshank Redemption, he said, “I’m a lucky man.”
“You are dad? Why?”
“I get to wake up tomorrow. Right here. In this room.”
Thanks, dad, for living it out.
I love you.